“There is
is breath
inside the pain
there is

— David Grossman, Falling Out of Time (2014)

Three years ago, Osvaldo Golijov sat down on a park bench in Tel Aviv to read David Grossman’s Falling Out of Time. Part play, part poem, part fable, the book narrates a journey “out of time” as parents grieve the death of their child, a quest to comprehend a loss with no name. 

Osvaldo Golijov’s exquisite and nuanced interpretation of the story portrays a musical, mythical walk that traverses vast and varied emotional landscapes to finally arrive at a place where breathing is again possible. Drawing on David’s powerful text, Osvaldo has conceived this song cycle for 13 artists of the Silkroad Ensemble, the collective whose delicacy of musical expression he describes as like “a harp of a thousand hairs.” The piece is scored for three voices, electronics, string quintet, kemanche, percussion, pipa, sheng, and trumpet.

Opening with the purity of an instrumental lament, Osvaldo pulls from the musical and narrative roots of the early Delta Blues and the ballads of Central Asia, giving new expression to the notion that, as Edward Hirsch writes in his New York Times review of the book, “Grief is democratic. It crosses barriers…” As the walk unfolds, we hear the fires, falls, trance, tenderness, and rage of grief as voices emerge, asking unanswerable questions that become mantras of movements towards breath.

Workshops for Falling Out of Time began in fall 2017 as part of Silkroad’s multi-year residency at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. Subsequent residencies have included work-in-progress readings and workshops that explore the role that arts play in bringing communities together. Silkroad’s model for commissioning workshops brings together composers and artists to co-develop new music for the Silkroad Ensemble’s unusual combination of instruments. The result, as co-artistic director Nicholas Cords describes it, is a hybrid between a fixed and co-created composition. Falling Out of Time will have its world premiere tour in the United States in fall 2019.